The Issue of Tenure in Government: The Case of the Board of Commissioners (BoC) of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA)

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Dr. Darren Wilkins

On October 30, 2018, President Dr. George Manneh Weah submitted a bill to the 54th Legislature, which called for the cancellation of tenured positions within the Executive Branch of Government. Subsequently, on Tuesday, November 22, 2018, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a report from its Judiciary Committee, repealing all tenured positions in Government. The House only exempted three institutions: the General Auditing Commission (GAC), National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). These three institutions are expected to retain their tenured statuses.  The Bill titled, “An Act Prohibiting the Tenure of All Public Officials Within the Executive Branch of Government” has been sent to the Senate for concurrence.

One of the many institutions that was affected by the LAW is the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), which was established by an Act of the Legislature, to regulate Liberia’s ICT/Telecommunications Sector. The LTA was given tenure to ensure “independence” in performing its regulatory functions. Apart from “Independence”, there are many reasons why the Act creating the LTA gave its “Board of Regulators” tenure. Below, I have listed a few of the reasons.

  1. Independence/Autonomy
  2. International Best Practice
  3. Signed and Accepted International Conventions
  4. Recommended by GLOBAL institutions like the WORLD BANK, INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS UNION (ITU), et al! Many of them provide funding for our programs.
  5. Investors’ confidence in the stability of the sector.

In addition, many of the member states of the United Nations (UN) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have tenured protection for their regulatory bodies. Below, I have listed FIVE (5) Telecom Regulators within the ECOWAS region (three of them are our closest neighbors), which follow similar standards.

  • NIGERIA: The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The Governing body of the Nigerian Communications Commission consists of a BOARD OF NINE(9) Commissioners; serving for a TERM of FIVE (5) years from the date of appointment. Att the expiration of the first term of office, the President may renew a board member’s term for a further period of 5 years and no more.
  • GHANA: The Ghana Telecom Regulatory Authority has a Seven-member of the Board that holds position for a period not exceeding FOUR (4) YEARS and each member eligible for re-appointment after the expiration of his/her tenure. But a member shall not be appointed for more than two terms.
  • GUINEA: Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT). The Board is composed of FIVE (5) MEMBERS serving for a FOUR (4) YEAR TERM.
  • IVORY COAST/COTE D’ IVOIRE: Agence des Telecommunications de Cote d’Ivoire (ATCI). ATCI’s has a SEVEN-Member regulatory body with SIX (6) years tenure.
  • SIERRA LEONE: The National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM)-The Board of Commissioners comprises of seven (7) Commissioners one of whom is Chairman and Commissioner. The Board is appointed by the President and approved by Parliament for a FIVE-YEAR (5) TENURE, and legible to renewal once.

All of these member states share one thing in common; they have a regulatory board that enjoys tenure protection.  Hopefully, the Liberian Senate to whom the law has been sent (for Concurrence), will take the “reasons” mentioned above into consideration and give the LTA an exemption.

No doubt, there are many instances in which Liberia abused this tenured concept by making several other entities enjoy the same protection without proper justifications. It is clear that some work needs to be done to fix some of the problems that plague the country.  However, we must be careful so that our attempts to remedy or fix problems do not create more problems for ourselves.

It appears apparent that removing the tenured positions at the LTA and other institutions could create uncertainty on the part of investors, because frequent changes in the sector’s leadership create uncertainties for investment. Newly appointed officials often tend to amend rules and regulations and this has the potential to make investors very nervous.

Finally, we need to keep in mind that the same Telecommunications Law that allows tenure also gives the President powers to appoint, dismiss or make changes to the nation’s ICT and Telecommunications Board of Regulators, whenever he/she chooses. These individuals do not enjoy the same protection of elected members (i.e. the Legislature). Therefore, for the sake of maintaining a stable environment for investors’ confidence and to ensure that we do not go against international best practices, we are asking our leaders to exempt the LTA.

Until next week, Carpe Diem!!!!


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